"There's a certain stability we like to have in the organization," Gillick says. "Most of the guys are married, they've got a kid or two and they've got a sense of responsibility." The fact that Toronto is a relatively crime-and grime-free city only makes the outsiders feel more at home. For a team so young (DHs aside, the average age is 28.5), it's incredibly low-key and sober.
The Way with contracts is also geared to safe assurance, with most of the Jays tied into three-year pacts with options that are renewed based on performance. By going this route, the Jays have been able to hang on to their flock—and keep their payroll down to 10th in baseball. Toronto catcher Buck Martinez says, "Ninety percent of the players are concerned about security. If you give them good money and guarantee it, they'll jump on it. Especially if they're on a good team in a good city with good management and a good playing situation."
LESSON 5: All in Good Time
Like many of his charges, manager Bobby Cox is somebody someone else gave up on. After almost four years of guiding Atlanta toward respectability, owner Ted Turner canned him in 1981, saying, "If we hadn't just fired Bobby and were looking for a new manager, he would be one of the leading candidates." Oh.
Cox retired as a player at 30 with a bum knee, a .225 average and the respect of his Yankee manager, Ralph Houk, who called him "one of the best team players I've ever managed." In his first coaching job in Fort Lauderdale, Cox had 38 players to instruct three times a day without any assistants, so he lived in the clubhouse. "I don't miss it because there was so much work," Cox says, "but I did love working with the kids and seeing the progress."
His first Toronto team left room for progress, going 78-84 and tying for sixth place in '82. But he knew apocalypse wasn't then. "Everybody in the organization knew it—we had to have patience," says the 44-year-old Cox, who bleeds blue without blubbering about it. "We had to have faith that what we were doing would pay off." He stuck with a player until the player gave up on himself. "Guys go out there playing with a lot of confidence," says Iorg, who has thrived in Cox's platoon system. "That's what he instills. If you screw something up. it's forgotten when the game is over."
In the last three seasons the Jays are an impressive 276-203. In none of those seasons have the Jays lost more than six games in a row.
LESSON 6: Field the Right Guys
A sensible ball club gets the players to fit its park. An AstroTurf stadium accents speed. Therefore the Jays are the most aggressive team in the league. They're second in the AL in steals, and they're last in sacrifice bunts. They lead the AL in times caught stealing, and they're third in avoiding double plays. Without any player in the top five of any batting category, Toronto has developed the game's best team attack. No Jay may drive in or score 100 runs, but each spot in the order may drive in and score 60.
Toronto's Dominican double-play combination typifies its top-to-bottom strength and aggressiveness. Leadoff man Garcia, 28, has been criticized for walking just 15 times, but his hard-swinging ways set the tone. "When I got here nobody said this is the way you have to walk." says Garcia, batting .286 with 28 steals. "They say this is the way you have to hit." Shortstop and No. 9 hitter Tony Fernandez, 23, has made Garcia's leadoff hole an RBI spot by hitting .285, beyond expectations for him.